IRAQ BEGINS TO CRACK
Courstesy of Andrewsullivan.com
Mass desertions weaken Iraqi defences
From David Sharrock in Northern Kuwait
Masses of Iraqi soldiers are deserting and senior members of President Saddam Hussein's ruling family circle are defecting as the countdown to a British and US invasion reaches its final hours.
In northern Iraq, on the border with Kurdistan, up to three-quarters of some Iraqi regiments have already fled.
In the mainly Shia Muslim south, Kuwaiti border guards are having to turn Iraqi soldiers back - telling them that they must wait until an attack begins before they can surrender.
And in a highly significant development in Baghdad a half-brother of President Saddam, who is regarded as the dictator's closest adviser, has fled in the past week to Syria.
Sab'awi Ibrahim Hasan Al-Tikriti, who is regarded in the United States as a possible war criminal, has sought refuge in Damascus. His flight from Baghdad suggests "fractures developing within the regime", according to a secret-level intelligence report which The Times has seen.
The reports, which are updated at least four times daily and distributed among senior British and US officers paint a picture of the dying hours of Saddam's 30-year iron grip on Iraq as it finally and dramatically falls apart, even before the British and US invasion gets underway.
"We are looking at wholesale desertions in some areas," said an intelligence officer.